Sen. Ed Markey: President Biden to Promote Ban of Child-Targeted Online Ads

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) (Image credit: U.S. Senate)

President Joe Biden is expected Tuesday (March 1) to call for a ban on online ads targeted to children and other measures billed as meant to better protect children online.

That‘s according to the office of Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has been pushing for those protections, and comes on the same day the House Energy & Commerce Committee is holding its third hearing on holding Big Tech accountable, which includes consideration of a bill that would generally ban certain types of targeted online advertising.

That expectation appeared to be confirmed after the White House announced that Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen was named as a guest in the First Lady's box for the State of the Union speech in which the President is expected to make that call out.

Also: Senators Call on FTC to Protect Kids Online

The caveat is that the president’s speech was being recrafted Tuesday to center more on Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, according to various reports. The bulk of the speech, though, is still expected to be about “bread and butter” issues, according to CNN, including broadband issues, given the administration's push for closing the digital divide and getting the internet into every home.

According to Markey‘s office, Biden’s address is expected to include a call to Congress to “strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand technology companies stop collecting personal data on our children and stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making for young people.”

That basically tracks with Markey’s proposed update of his Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Currently, COPPA, which Markey motormanned, prohibits websites from collecting personal information from anyone 12 and under without consent. The new bill, the Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act, would extend that protection to teens 13-15.

It would also create the “eraser button” that Markey has been pushing for years, requiring online companies to allow users to eliminate personal information from a child or teen.

In addition to banning advertising targeted to children (as distinguished from contextual advertising in content targeted to children), the legislative update aslo creates a “digital marketing bill of rights,” which limits the collection of personal information from teens for marketing purposes. And to make sure that the limits are respected, it creates a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission.

In addition, the bill would:

1.) Change COPPA’s “actual knowledge” standard to a “constructive knowledge” standard, which means websites “should reasonably know” children are on their sites and they need to get consent to collect data.

2.) Require online companies to explain what personal information is being collected, how it is being used and to disclose their collection policies.

3.) Require that internet-connected devices for kids have robust cybersecurity.

4.) Require manufacturers of connected devices targetd to kids and minors to include on their packaging disclosures of how information is collected, transmitted, retained, used and protected. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.